Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.


What If Your Purpose Has Nothing To Do With Your Career?

Posted by Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. on September 20, 2016 at 4:50 AM

These days there's a plethora of self-help books and online courses aimed at helping you find your passion and live your purpose (full disclosure: I offer such a course). Many of us get hooked very quickly on the idea of monetizing our passion. We want to make money doing what we love and we want to make the world a better place in the process. This is a noble goal, and if you're lucky enough to have achieved it then I tip my hat to you.

But this blog is for the rest of us.

This blog is for those who have a tricky time getting paid to be their True Self. This blog is for people who poured all of their savings into what they thought was their purpose, only to lose it all. This blog is for those who are biting their nails while looking at their bank account - hoping that the law of attraction will eventually kick in and bring them the Ferrari on their vision board. This blog is for people who repeat affirmations about being financially abundant when they don't actually believe a word they're saying.

Because here's the hard truth that many of us need to hear: sometimes your purpose isn't supposed to have anything to do with making a living. Your passion might not actually want (or need) to be monetized. And the more you try to convince people to pay you for a purpose that doesn't need money, the less authentic you appear to your audience.

This doesn't mean you'll never make money from following your passion, or that you're doomed to work at a boring office job for the rest of your life. It means you might spend years (or decades) cultivating our passion without making a cent - until the time is just right - and suddenly people start paying you to do what you love. Or you might spend your whole life working at a boring job to pay the bills so that you can follow your passion (for free) in your spare time.

None of these options are wrong. None of them are less "evolved" or "enlightened." We each have unique gifts and reasons for being on this earth at this time, and not all of these gifts need to be tied to earning an income.

Because sometimes when we tie money to our passions, the passions themselves start to fade. Other times, our passions morph into things that aren't even our passions anymore but we keep doing them to pay the bills. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. It is simply our job to be aware of what's going on beneath the surface, and get back on track if we've fallen off.

Trust me when I say I need to read this blog as much as you do. From an early age I tied my purpose to my profession. When I was 16 I decided I wanted to be a psychology professor so that I could do research that would reveal the deepest truths of the human mind, and ultimately, the universe (easy, right?). After getting my PhD that passion shifted (for a variety of financial and non-financial reasons) and I ended up in the corporate world where I made great money - but felt 0% passion about what I was doing.

So I did what many self-helpers advocate: I quit my job to follow my bliss. Since 2010 I've gone through a variety of iterations trying to make money from my passions. I've tried coaching, teaching yoga, leading workshops (online and offline), writing books, and doing research. I even worked in a greenhouse for a few months. All with the intention of helping the world and making an income at the same time.

But the relationship between my passions and my bank account is complicated. Sometimes, money rolls in almost effortlessly from projects that I'm not all that interested in. Other times I create products and videos for things that I'm passionate about - but they end up being painful to watch because people can sense how badly I want to be validated by having them purchase what I'm offering.

On the surface my life might seem like I'm one of those people who "made it" at making a living doing what I love. And in many ways I'm extremely fortunate that I work for myself and can afford a pretty great lifestyle. But the truth is that I worry about money regularly. And I often wonder whether it makes sense for me to link my passions with my income. These days, most of my income comes from doing research on yoga in schools. But do I jump out of bed every morning eager to prove the benefits of yoga for children? No. The research I do is for a worthy cause and it pays the bills, but it isn't quite my passion.

One of my passions has always been writing, but I rarely get paid to write. And some days I don't feel passionate about writing at all. At this very moment I have a publisher who is interested in working with me on a new book - which I will write entirely for free. Sure, I might make some royalties if the book sells well, but it's very difficult to make a living solely from writing books (even if you're a New York Times bestseller). The idea of spending a ton of unpaid hours writing this book is scary. Which is why, for me, linking my passions with my income is a complicated, and often uncomfortable, process.

This is also why I think it's crucial for us to take a good hard look at our underlying motivations for monetizing our passions. Perhaps you want to make a living while also helping the world. Great. But it might not happen all at once, or in the order you expect, or at all. It might be that what you're actually seeking is validation for your lack of self-worth, as opposed to really wanting to help anyone. Or it might be that your purpose is to simply enjoy life and have fun regardless of your bank account.

Your passion and purpose might end up having absolutely nothing to do with your career. You might never make a penny from your passion or get any recognition for it. Heck, most of us are lucky to even figure out what our passion is.

So the question becomes: Do you want (or need) to monetize your passion? Why or why not?

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Reply Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
7:27 AM on September 26, 2016 
I love the idea of a "bridge job," Monique! I think I saw that interview with Cheryl Richardson - it was great. It sounds like you've worked out a formula for keeping your passions alive while also keeping a roof over your head, which is awesome! Thanks for sharing.
Reply Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
7:25 AM on September 26, 2016 
I'm so glad you enjoyed my blog, Anokina! And your idea for a future blog on how to string together our jobs/passions is great. I'll think about this and hopefully write something soon!
Reply Anokina Shahbaz
3:17 PM on September 23, 2016 
Such a great post Bethany, and an important topic that's rarely talked about. You always bring a new angle to these topics and I love that because I learn something new each time. This post for me is serendipitous as I was just this week thinking about how to monetize my passion for writing. I keep going back and forth between wanting to find a job in my passion so I can get paid to do what I love, and applying to jobs that I'm not passionate about because I need to pay the bills. It's such a frustrating roller coaster. I figure how hard can it be to find a job within the realm of my passion, but it's harder than I thought. And when I do find a job remotely related to writing, it's not at all something I enjoy. It usually ends up being way more technical and business like than creative writing. Ugh... I'm always relieved reading your posts because it reminds me I'm not alone in what I'm going through. Thank you for being so open and honest about your journey and touching on the not-so-pretty parts. Your writing is so realistic and yet beautiful at the same time. Congratulations on getting a publisher interested in your work. I'm looking forward to reading your book!

On another note, can you possibly write something about how to get others to take you seriously (family, friends, employers) when your work track record isn't at all consistent, and you keep bouncing from job to job (in order to find your passion)? That's my issue right now. Whenever I get the rejection call or email from an employer I interviewed with, in the back of my mind I can't help but think - 'yea I wouldn't hire me either.' :( How do we string together all the random jobs and freelance work we do in pursuit of finding our passion and life purpose? I don't want it to feel like a waste of time. I'd love your insight on this. Thanks so much Bethany!
Reply Monique Chhabra
11:29 AM on September 23, 2016 
Great points. I always love reading your blog. I feel like the purpose of my life is to feel peaceful and to have a lifestyle that feels peaceful. And that means that my purpose is to prioritize self love and self care. I have many passions and I certainly feel like I need to honor those by putting my message and my heart out there. I do that through my artwork (I have an etsy shop) and my YouTube channel. I don't depend on these things to support me financially right now. I work part time in education, and thankfully I love my paid job. I feel like people need to focus less on making money and focus more on sharing their message and who they are in whatever form feels truest to them. It is an abundant feeling to share my message through YouTube videos and artwork. I'm happy to be making money at a job where I get a consistent paycheck because I don't think I would be sharing my authenticity on YouTube if I was wanting to get paid from that creative pursuit right away. There was a great interview with Cheryl Richardson and Oprah where Cheryl basically told people, you're going to need a bridge job while you work on honoring your passion. Because if we're trying to build a coaching business, a YouTube community, a business and we need money from that at the same time - the desperation will block our soul and our message. Do the coaching, the YouTube, the business because it feels good and it feels right and it makes your soul rejoice, that is the intention that will help you to do your souls work. And get a paid job while you do it. Then your simply sharing your message to honor yourself. I'm so glad I saw that interview back a few years ago. It's message parallels this beautifully written blog post. I have concluded that I will always have a roof over my head and food on the table because I am willing to do the bridge job while I nurture my passions.